American remakes of international films hit or miss, and there seem to be two schools of thought on this subject: the attempted erasure of foreign films versus art that mimics art. It’s no surprise that Hollywood tells great stories, but Hollywood was also inspired by the wonderful stories told internationally. When a foreign film begins to receive praise in its country of origin, the American film industry sees an opportunity for profitability with an American remanufacturing. Whether you’re trying to add to the story, take things in a different direction, or just pay homage to a wonderful piece of work, the hope is that a remake will bring the same success as the source material.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with achieving success, American remakes are generally not held by audiences, as they can be seen as America’s attempt to eliminate international films. A good example of this is the Sandra Bullock film The Lake House of which most people are familiar, however, few know about the Korean film The sea it was the inspiration for the American remake. The other thought process is that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, and, in the case of American remakes, this may be true. Reworkings certainly increase the visibility of lesser-known (for American audiences, that is) international films, as viewers who enjoyed the remake would naturally seek the original and thus bring it to the attention of a viewer who might not otherwise have sought it do not have.
The bottom line is that ingenuity is not a requirement to create a wonderful work of art. Not all remakes are wasted simply on the assumption that it is a retelling of someone else’s work. That said, all original artwork definitely deserves to be judged on their terms, as the original creator intended, without being overshadowed by the Americanized version.
8 La Cage Aux Folles
La Cage Aux Folles is a 1978 French joke based on Jean Poiret’s play of the same name. It tells the story of a gay couple who run a glamorous touring club in St. Louis. Tropez owns. Hilarious high jinx follows when owner Renato (Ugo Tognazzi) and star performer Albin (Michel Serrault) agree to play straight when their son brings his ultra-conservative in-laws home. La Cage Aux Folles inspired a popular American remake in 1996 titled The Birdcage with the late Robin Williams and Nathan Lane in the lead roles. The movie is so popular that it was even reissued in theaters for Pride month in 2021.
7 The sea
The sea (which means “the sea”) is a Korean film released in 2000, it plays Lee Jung-jae from Netflix Squid Game, as a lonely man living in a house next to the lake. Jun Ji-hyun is interpreted as a similar lonely woman who lives in the same house two years later. The two discover that they can communicate with each other over time by leaving letters in the mailbox and eventually the couple fall in love. The 2006 film The Lake House was inspired by The sea and the lead roles of Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. It is said that the original film did not have the timeline inconsistencies found in the remake.
6 Wings of Desire
Wings of Desire was released in 1987 and is one of Germany’s best films. It takes place in Berlin and tells the story of Damien (wyle Bruno Ganz) a guardian angel who can hear the thoughts — fears, hopes, dreams — of everyone in the city. When he falls in love with a beautiful trapeze artist named Marion (Solveig Dommartin), he gives up his immortality to be with her. Wings of Desire inspired a faint American remake called Cameron Crowe in 1998 City of Angels. The remake features Meg Ryan opposite Nicolas Cage. While the premise was similar, subtle artistic choices diminished the magic of the original.
5 Open your eyes
Open your eyes, which is Spanish for “Open Your Eyes,” follows the story of Cesar (Eduardo Noriega), a narcissistic woman sleeper who is disfigured in a car accident after one of his rejected lovers tries to kill him. After the deformity, Cesar falls into a deep depression. From then on, it is difficult to distinguish dream from reality, as the film descends through a series of mysterious events that explain Cesar’s current circumstances. Cameron Crowe’s 2001 Vanilla Sky with Tom Cruise in the lead roles and Penélope Cruz was inspired by Open your eyes and follow the same plot. Similar to Crowe’s remake of Wings of Desire, subtle nuance changes influenced the intended tone of the film compared to the source material. Incidentally, starring as Sofia, Cruz plays the same character in both the original and the remake.
4 Let the Rights In
Leave the Rights In is a 2008 Swedish film based on John Ajvide Lindqvist’s 2004 novel of the same name. It is a vampire thriller centered around the friendship between a young boy named Oskar (Kare Hedebrant), who is bullied at school, and a strange and mysterious girl named Eli (Lena Leandersson). The film inspired an American remake titled Let me in in 2010, which is not far from the original and according to Vanity Fair well executed.
3 Funny Games
Funny Games is an Austrian psychological thriller from 1997 that follows the story of a couple of disturbed young men (Arno Frisch & Frank Giering), who entertain themselves by tormenting a family with sadistic, and torturous “games”. The film was shot in 2008 for shot by Michael Haneke (who also directed the original). Despite the movies sharing the same sequence of events, the original is far more terrifying than the remake, perhaps due to the absence of any recognizable stars, so you can not fall back on the convenience of “it’s just a movie.” The original was also a social commentary on the use of force by American audiences. The remake stars Naomi Watts, Tim Roth and Michael Pitt.
2 The total!
The total! Is a 1991 French espionage comedy directed by Claude Zidi. It tells the seemingly boring life of telecommunications specialist Francois Voisin (Thierry Lhermitte). Francois, however, lives a double life as a secret agent. The plot thickens when Francois’s disgruntled wife Helene (Miou-Miou) seeks out some adventure of her own. The film inspired James Cameron’s successful 1994 action film True lies starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis. The remake also has Inspired by a TV series pilot currently in development at CBS.
1 The Pier
The Pier is a 1962 French dystopian short film that tells the story of a man who travel back and forth through time on a dangerous mission to save the world. It consists almost entirely of still photographs and has a running time of 28 minutes, but it is one of the most powerful foreign films ever made. That was the inspiration behind 12 Ape starring Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis and Madelaine Stowe, who borrowed several ideas from the original Time Travel feature.
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